While there is no indication from the Knicks that the 25-year-old center is on the trading block, his trainer’s plea to coach Tom Thibodeau to give him license to shoot is a storyline bear watching in his sixth NBA season.
“The asking price for a player like New York’s Mitchell Robinson, sources told Yahoo Sports, is multiple first-round picks — probably a non-starter for most clubs,” Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill wrote on Friday.
Robinson is entering the second year of a team-friendly $60 million, four-year deal after blossoming into a rebounding demon and a defensive force over his last three seasons — all under Thibodeau.
The Knicks starting center finished as the league’s second-best offensive rebounder (4.5 offensive rebounds per game) behind Memphis Grizzlies’ Steven Adams last season. Robinson topped that category (5.0 offensive rebounds per game) during the playoffs highlighted by his dominant performance in the Knicks’ gentleman’s sweep of the fourth seed Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.
Among the starting bigs in the league, he was fourth in block percentage (64.1%). Only Utah’s Walker Kessler (67.3%), Memphis’ Jarren Jackson Jr. (67.0%) and Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez (66.8%) were ahead of him.
Mitchell Robinson’s Gripes
But amid his growing role on the defensive end, his shrinking role on the offensive end has sometimes frustrated the young center.
In March, Robinson ranted on Snapchat after two straight games where he only had six attempts at the basket: “Tired asf (as f—) of just being out there for cardio fam like I want to play basketball to really just wasting my time and energy (emoji),” followed by “Disappearing for a while.”
Robinson later issued a public apology.
The 7-foot center finished his fifth year in the league with his second-lowest scoring (7.4 points) and field goal attempts (4.7) average in his career. His field goal attempts declined throughout the last three seasons (from a career-high 5.7 to 4.7) under Thibodeau, with the Knicks adding more offensive firepower in their starting lineup from Evan Fournier to Quentin Grimes and Jalen Brunson.
Mitchell Robinson’s Trainer’s Plea
Marcell Scott, who trains Robinson during every offseason in Louisiana, recently made a passionate plea to Thibodeau.
“Offseason is officially over! I can say [Robinson] improved his free-throw shooting, his athleticism is back from him buying into the pool workouts! Mitch has developed a few go-to moves with his back to the basket!!! “Please, Coach Thibs, give him that freedom on the offensive end,” Scott wrote on his Instagram story on September 27.
Robinson averaged only a 9.6% usage rate last season, which ranks in the second percentile in the league, per Cleaning The Glass.
Robinson’s 4.7 attempts per game last season were exclusively on lobs, dunks and putbacks.
But it was not only Robinson who was an afterthought on the Knicks’ offensive schemes. All of their centers — Isaiah Hartenstein (10.9%) and Jericho Sims (6.6%) — had the lowest usage rates in the team last season.
It’s just how the Knicks play under Thibodeau, who likes his centers to focus on rebounding and protecting the paint and let their guards and wings do the scoring.
His career-worst 48.4% free throw shooting percentage does not also help Robinson’s case to inspire confidence in the coaching staff to give him a prominent role on offense.